I spent a lot of time this summer shooting from a seated position in my back yard preparing to hunt on the ground. I set a goal for myself after the 2011 season that I would take a whitetail from the ground in 2012. So as the regular archery season began winding down I figured I had better give “On the Ground” (OTG) a try before the gun hunters started blazing away. So on September 30th I was planning to hit a local WMA and made a commitment to hunt on the ground all day long. I had purchased a “Ground Hunter Seat” from Big Jim’s back during the summer and really wanted to try it out somewhere besides the back yard. So with everything set I headed off to sleep with more questions than answers. The wind was supposed to be all over the map the next day and I was not even sure where I would be headed when the clock went off.
I can’t believe I overslept!!! I swear I do not remember turning off the alarm on my phone but I guess I did, so by the time I leave my house I am already an hour behind schedule but still I am excited about spending a day in the woods. Next to me in my truck is a bright red bow sock, inside sits my Northern Mist Classic. Bolivian Rosewood handle, 4 lams of bamboo and cherry veneers on back and belly. During the summer attending 3D events I named the bow “Cherry Bomb” because of what happened when an arrow out of this bow went where I didn’t intend…..Shrapnel!
I headed to a North GA WMA about 30 minutes from my house. The spot I intended to hunt takes about 30 minutes to walk to in the dark, to still hunt will take decidedly longer. I arrive at the area I plan to hunt, a natural saddle well off the beaten path with several crab apple trees that I bless with a fertilizer spike each spring. I slip up to a large oak behind a mat of briars and muscadine vines. Between the two I feel I should be well hidden and there is enough cover to break my Silhouette. I settle in and wait.
In less that 20 minutes I catch movement, a small fork horn and what looks to be a spike are moving up a trail that will bring them broadside to me at about 15 yards. The forkhorn senses something is not kosher. He stares in my direction, bobs his head up and down several times and then proceeds down the trail, not running but fast enough that there is no chance to take a shot……his little buddy right on his heels. Awesome, deer within 15 yards and OTG to boot! I realize I have a death grip on my bow and my heart is racing. I settle back in and listen to the chatter of squirrels as they chastise the two bucks for disturbing the peace.
The squirrels soon stopped their chattering and went back to their foraging in the tops of the oaks all around me. Other than the squirrels and a few crows off in the distance the woods were really quite. I found myself thinking about the books I have read recently. Three by Jay Massey and the new book Longbow by Jay Campbell and verious stories in those books that really stood out in my memory. I am not sure how much time had passed but suddenly I realized that the rustle of leaves I could hear were at ground level. Not the squirrels overhead. I was on full alert when the first deet came into my view. A small yearling, not likely more than 100lbs. Then another, and another…and another. I counted a total of 8 does and yearlings and all of the yearlings were having the time of their lives. Chasing each other, kicking up there heels and just having a grand ol time. I had my bow at the ready and one of the larger does presented a shot for just a moment but with so many eyes I hesitated. As quickly as they had approached, they were moving out of range. I realized I was smiling to myself. Even though I had not managed a shot. I had now had 10 deer total within 20 yards and the day was still young. I sneaked a peek at my phone. It was only 9:30.
The wind feather on my upper limb was starting to shift and I knew I would soon have to move. At daybreak the wind was out of the NE and it was due to shift to the East mid morning and later to a SE in the afternoon. I could adjust my position for a E wind but once it turned SE I would have to move to a new location all together.
I slowly rose to my feet, glanced around and then picked up my ground seat. I shifted around to a better angle for the shifting wind. Not as good of a view but any shot that would present itself should be fairly close quarters. I had cut a few small pines back in the spring to use as a natural blind. The pine boughs had settled down so I spruced them back up and took the time to clip a few briars and saplings that might get in the way.
Slowly the wind continued to shift and by 11am the wind was pretty much right in my face. The more I sat in my new location the better I felt about my chances. If a deer approached I would have little warning and most likely I would have very little time to make a shot. Hopefully should a deer wander through the pace will be slower than what I have seen thus far. The tree my ground seat is leaning against is the last large tree before the terrain drops off sharlpy behind me and I am confident any deer walking through will pass right through my ambush site.
I hear the shuffle of leaves, ever since reading G. Fred’s book on still hunting where he describes “Deer-Walking” I always think about cornflakes when I hear the sound of a deer walking. Of course the sound is coming from directly BEHIND ME!
I slowly turn my head and sure enough a buck is working his way towards me. He is a smaller basket rack buck but I quickly decide he a shot presents itself before he winds me I will take the shot. I slowly stand and pivot to my left, if he continues his path he will pass directly behind me and present a full broadside shot.
I have my bow up and come to full draw just before he will step into view. The strain of the bow feels reassuring as my middle finger meets the corner of my mouth. I feel my thumb tuck under my jaw and the cock feather rests lightly on the tip of my nose. Just a couple more steps…..
I remember picking a tuft of hair just behind his shoulder, as he takes a step forward the string slips from my tab and I see the arrow disappear with a sickening CRACK!
The buck reeled, for a second I thought he would fall but he managed to keep his footing and trotted off. Not running, just a steady gate but the underbrush is so thick I lost sight of him after 15 yards. I turn back around and sit down. It all happened so quickly….I think I made a good shot, I want to go check for blood but I decide to wait hoping that he will not go far before lying down.
After a 30 minute wait (ok, so it was only 20) I figure I have done about as much to kill time playing games on my phone as I can. I get up and walk the great distance of 8 yards to search for blood and immediately I see blood. Looks a little darker than I would like, no pink, no bubbles.
It looked like a heart shot, I decide to wait another 30 minutes before pushing. I do find my arrow about 15 yards away. The Simmons Shark is still sharp, still hungry and still looking very menacing!
30 minutes sure does pass slowly when waiting……..
As I pick up the trail the blood looks decent, the blood still looks a little darker than I would have expected, but not as dark as a liver hit so I sloooooly push forward. Bow in hand, arrow nocked.
After about 20 yards it appears he paused for a moment. I know I smiled.
The trail is easy to follow, another 15 yards and I can see that he stumbled, probably falling as there is a small maple sapling laying flat and smeared with blood.
I start scanning the underbrush. I regret I only have a small Zeiss monocular. I left my Nikon Binos at home to stay as light as possible. Then, is that a log? I double check with the monocular and no, that’s my deer. I drop to one knee and watch for several minutes to make sure there is no movement. Nothing.
I ease my way closer, arrow at the ready, but no need. He is down. After saying a short prayer of thanks I sit down next to my trophy and soak it all in.
After a bit of fumbling I manage to get my phone wedged between a couple of saplings and get a few self shots.
Depending on how you count them he is either a 7 or an 8 point. Doesn’t matter to me, he is my first OTG bow kill and I am thankful that it came with Trad gear. I wouldn’t be happier or prouder if it was a P&Y!!!! The arrow hit exactly where I had intended, I took out the heart and broke the off shoulder. Total distance traveled after the shot was about 45-50 yards.
Later, I removed the broadhead from the arrow and placed it on a shelf as a reminder of my first OTG kill. I will not be my last!
Thank you for letting me share the experience with you and may all your arrows find their mark!